Step Stately ~ Duple, Hume (Old Style Progression)

Step Stately ~ Hume (3 in 7) Step Stately ~ Hume Step Stately ~ Duple, Hume (Old Style Progression) Step Stately ~ Palmer Step Stately

Step Stately ~ Duple, Hume (Old Style Progression) is an English Country Dance. It was found in the Lovelace Manuscript (written somewhere around the 1640s) and later published in The English Dancing Master. It was interpreted by Colin Hume (website) in 1995 and published in Playford with a Difference. It is a proper Duple Minor dance. The minor set lasts 16 bars. Someone thought this dance was Intermediate / Hard.

When I learned to Contra Dance, and later when I learned English Country Dancing, the whole set would begin dancing at once. But that's not how Playford expected people to dance. In his day only the top two couples of a duple minor set (three for a triple minor, of course) would start. After they had danced once the top couple would go down to the next couple(s) below and dance with them. No one started until the top couple reached them.

When the original top couple reached the bottom they would start up the set as 2s. When they reached the top they would stop. But the dance would not. Now the top couple would wait, and the dance would end when each couple had reached its original place. (if there are n couples then this takes 3*n-3 repetitions of the dance in a duple minor, and 4*n-4 in a triple minor).

In part this was because the top couple would choose the dance, and would teach it to each couple below by dancing it with them. They did not have walk-throughs beforehand to teach the dance.

There is still a vestige of this style of dancing in Scottish Country's 2 couple dance in a 4 couple set, where only the top two couples dance the first time through.

See Colin Hume's interpretation of Jamaica for a description of how progression worked.

In Playford's day the top couple would have started the dance with the next couple, then they would have progressed to the next, and so on all the way down the set as ones and all the way back up as twos. They would then started the second figure (while other people were still doing the first figure), and again gone all the way down and back, when they would have waited until all the other couples were back to their original places.

I have simplified things here and have no "second figure" (though the full version of this dance does have one) so once they reach the top, they simply wait until everyone else has reached their original places. The progression is rather like a progressive hey or progressive progression.

Unfortunately, Playford never says this specifically, he just assumed everyone knew, however if you read his directions they make more sense if they are directed only to the top two (or three) couples rather than the entire set. Here's an example that I was working on last week so it is fresh in my mind, but there are others: "The first Cu. turns single, then lead down thro' the 2d Cu. and cast up again · The 2d Cu. do the same : Then the three first Cu. go the Hey · The first Cu. cast off and turn Hands ··" from "Masquerade Royal", John Young (Playford's son in law), 1718: Now, why say "the three first Cu." when you mean "all the couples" unless those first three were the only ones dancing at the start?

Another bit of circumstantial evidence: "Pride and Prejudice", Chapter 18, Mr. Darcy + Elizabeth at the Netherfield Ball: "When the dancing recommenced, however, ... They stood for some time without speaking a word" The dancing has started, but they are standing and not dancing. Even if you are out at the bottom you are out for less than a minute (well in almost all dances Fandango might take a bit more), not long enough for standing without talking to be uncomfortable. I suggest they are waiting for the dance to work its way down the set until it gets to them.

The first indisputable evidence I can give comes from "The Dancer's Guide", London, Chivers, 1821: In his description of an improper duple minor (Ecossoises, page 45), he has a diagram of the initial layout of the dance and only the top couple is improper, all the others are proper. This only works if the top foursome is the only one active at the start. He says: "Any number of persons can join, observing that the first couple exchange places (each couple doing the same as they regain the top), and when they get to the bottom, they take their own sides"

In 1857, Thomas Hillgrove in The scholars' companion and ball-room vade mecum (New York) is still specifying this form of progression: This is performed in the same manner as the Country Dance, the ladies and gentlemen being placed in lines opposite to each other. The couple at the top begin the figure.

However, in The Complete Ball-Room Hand-Book, Elias Howe, Boston, 1858 says In forming for Contra Dances, let there be space enough between the ladies' and gentlemen's lines to pass down and up the centre. It is usual for those at the foot of the set to wait until the first couple has passed down, and they have arrived at the head of the set; but there is no good reason why they should so wait, as every fourth couple should commence with the first couple. In other words he is saying that traditional dancers would only begin with the top couple, but there is no reason why the whole line couldn't start at once.

This may reflect a difference in behavior between New York and Boston, (Hillgrove distinguishes between Country Dances and Contra Dances, while Howe says they are two names for the same thing), or just a difference between traditional and innovative behavior.

Finally we come to Cecil Sharp and his description of a minor-set dance in The Country Dance Book, Part 1 (1909):

The top minor-set, headed by the leading couple, opens the dance by performing the complete figure, the rest of the couples being neutral. This results in the exchange of positions between the leading and second couple.

The second round is now danced by the minor-set composed of the second and third couples, of which the second one is the leading couple. The rest of the dancers, including the top one, remain neutral. This brings the leading couple down to third place from the top of the General Set.

In the third round two minor-sets will now participate, namely those consisting, respectively, of the two couples at the top (the second and third of the original set), and of the the third and fourth couples (originally the first and fourth).

However, at the end of the section Sharp adds the comment:

Expert dancers will sometimes constitute themselves into minor-sets for the performance of the first round, and thus avoid the gradual and somewhat tedious opening as above described; that is to say, they will omit the first six rounds in our first illustration and begin with the seventh round.

As far as I can tell, later parts of the The Country Dance Book omit this entirely. So perhaps Sharp changed his mind. And that may mark where this style of starting a dance was lost.

I have extracted the duple minor set from Colin Hume's interpretation of Step Stately to show the way progression would have worked in Playford's day. And in Jane Austin's day for all of that.

In the Lovelace Manuscript the instructions for this dance are incomplete.

This dance needs a lot more room between sets than most.

Playford (and Sharp) say this can be done for 3, 5, 7 or 9 couples. Colin Hume's adaptation is basically the same as Sharp's, though he does clean up a few matters. The biggest difference is that he recommends 5 couples. With 5 couples you really get a feel for the triple minor dance, with 3 it feels like a three couple set.

Despite Playford's suggestion, I really don't see how there could possibly be time to do a seven couple version of Part 1.

Lovelace writes:

Leade up, and downe agayne then the man and woeman slip between each other, the man above the woeman then the first man shall leade soe round about to the bottome holding the other man by the hand and his woeman doeing the like at the same time, then they all shall leade upwards, in the shape of an halfe moone, and downe againe then the 3 woemen quitting of the 3 men shall slide upwards towards the right hand, and the men towards the left, and soe they are all in their places;

The first couple shall leade upwards, and the second downwards, the last couple standing still, and then turne about, and leade each to other, and then take hands, and goe rounde — (the dance's instructions are terminated by the bottom of the page and do not resume on the next)

Playford writes:

Lead up all a D. change places each with his own, keeping your races still to the Presence, the men slipping behind the we. and the we before the ment, face all to the wall Men hands, and we. hands, 1 man and 2. wo. lead all the rest round to the bottom facing all to the Presence The first man and wo. being in the middle, lead up all abreast a D. and back We. slip before the men to the right, and men behind the we. to the left going a compass to their places as at first

The first cu. lead up a D. change hands and lead down a D. Take hands with the 2. cu. and all four half round, 1. man and 2. wo. change places The 2 we lead up between the 2 men, then crossing over, the 1. wo. go behind the 2. man, and the 2. behind the 1. Men change over by the right hands, then giving left hands to their own we. turn the 1. cu. into the 2. place, and the 2. into the 1.

First cu. cross over, meet in the 2. place, change places The three uppermost men and the three we. hands, fall a D. back, 2. and 3. cu. change each with his own while the 1. cu. meet, then fall a D. back again three and three Now standing as in Greenwood, the 1 man between the 2 and 3. wo. and the 1. wo. between the 2. and 3. man, the 1 cu. lead up, cast off and meet below whilst the 2. and 3. we and the 2. and 3. men change places The 1. cu. being in the 3. place, arms, whilst the other four take hands and go half round to the left

This is the original tune that Playford published with the dance (Sharp substituted the tune for Jack Pudding instead). The music was synthesized by Colin Hume's software

The animation plays at 109 counts per minute normally, but the first time through the set the dance will often be slowed down so people can learn the moves more readily (no music plays during this slow set). Men are drawn as rectangles, women as ellipses. Each couple is drawn in its own color, however the border of each dancer indicates what role they currently play so the border color may change each time through the minor set.

An online description of the dance may be found here.

The dance contains the following figures: hand turn (allemande), circle, lead, figure eight (and probably others).

If you find what you believe to be a mistake in this animation, please leave a comment on youtube explaining what you believe to be wrong. If I agree with you I shall do my best to fix it.

If you wish to link to this animation please see my comments on the perils of youtube. You may freely link to this page, of course, and that should have no problems, but use one of my redirects when linking to the youtube video itself:

< Prev Top Next >

The dance itself is out of copyright, and is in the public domain. The interpretation is copyright © 1995 by Colin Hume. My visualization of this dance is copyright © 2021 by George W. Williams V and is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website is copyright © 2021,2022,2023,2024 by George W. Williams V
Creative Commons License My work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Most of the dances have more restrictive licensing, see my notes on copyright, the individual dance pages should mention when some rights are waived.